TALIA GREENE INTERVIEW
In 2015-16, Talia Greene’s site-specific artwork, called Passage, was installed in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights, upper Manhattan, New York. Greene’s work takes us on a journey back in environmental time. Her artwork, a wall mural that was installed in the main stairwell of the mansion, maps the unfolding impact of urban expansion on what was Manhattan Island's animal and forest habitat.
Reflected in Greene’s mural is the metaphorical ‘tipping point’ during a period of intense urban expansion as the city's gridded road networks began to encroach upon the 'rural' location of the house from the 1860s to the turn of the century. The main theme of the mural traces the consequent demise of the Passenger Pigeon, once one of the the most numerous birds on the continent. The Passenger Pigeon had decreased drastically in number to become extinct by 1914. On the lower ground floor, the mural’s central motif is the expanding city grid of Manhattan in 1832. As one moves up the stairs to the second floor of the mansion, motifs of flora and fauna dominate. These motifs reference the birds and wildlife that were populous when the Mansion was built in 1756, surrounded then by forest, marshes, and some settler farmlands.
The Tree Museum interviewed Greene about the research that informed the development of her artwork and her exploration of the intersection of urbanization and animal extinctions. We discuss the phenomenon of the 'tipping point' and also reflect on the colonial context of the Morris-Jumel Mansion and its claims in relation to the territorial dispossession of the Leni Lenape Nation.
Talia Greene resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and her MFA from Mills College. She is currently an Assistant Adjunct Professor at University of the Arts (Philadelphia).
FURTHER RELATED INFORMATION
See Talia Greene's fascinating installation called Charting a Path to Resistance at the City Archives in Philadelphia. This project focuses on local government and private companies' practices of mapping the racial make-up of Philadelphia's neighborhoods during the 1930s and on -- known as Redlining -- and the active discrimination against Black People's access to financing, purchasing and maintaining houses and businesses in the USA.
photo courtesy taliagreene.com
REDLINING & GREEN URBAN SPACES
"Side-by-side photos of two of Detroit's neighborhoods" showing disparity of tree cover resulting from the legacy of redlining. Photo courtesy of americanforests.org
"Formerly redlined neighborhoods have far fewer trees than those that were not redlined. People in formerly redlined neighborhoods, therefore, don’t benefit from the many things trees do to help us live better lives—such as absorbing water so there are fewer catastrophic floods and providing shade so there are fewer heat-related illnesses. [...] On average, [a] study shows, trees currently cover approximately 23 percent of the formerly redlined (grade D) neighborhoods and 43 percent of the formerly greenlined (grade A) neighborhoods. Thirty-seven redlined city neighborhoods were included in the study. In a nutshell, the ranking system used to assess loan risk in the last century parallels the rank order of average percent tree canopy cover today, according to the study."
Locke, Hall, Grove et al., 2012, Residential Housing Segregation and Urban Tree Canopy Cover in 37 US Cities. SocArcXiv Papers.